Aug 11, 2007
“Have you ever tried to see the rain?” I say to him and he peers at me over the top of his reading glasses. “I mean, really see it. Not just the sheet of misty, indecipherable greyness that comes down over the city, but actually see the rain; thousands or millions or more of individual drops that fall past your window and find unity on the ground or on the umbrellas or the shoes of passers-by.”
“It’s not easy to do, Doctor, and I would advise you never to try. Never.”
“Why is the rain important to you?” says the Doctor. “Is that why you’ve come to see me, Gabe?’
I am sitting in a large, friendly chair in front of the Doctor’s large desk. Everything is big here; it seems like Texas. In the corner stands a friendly tree and the sun is streaming in the window. Even the Doctor is over-sized and friendly. A notepad sits on his enormous, right thigh crossed over his left knee. The pen looks like the stub of a pencil in his fleshy paw. His head is bald and shiny.
“I can see the dead, Doctor. I think it’s making me go insane.”
“Why do you think you can see the dead, Gabe?” He studies me with a look designed to convey interest.
“It was an accident”, I answer. I am agitated. I haven’t spoken to anyone about this since I told my wife. That was a year ago. She left me shortly thereafter. That was when things started to go from bad to worse. I started to lose the ability to distinguish between the living and some of the dead.
“I’m a graduate student in medieval history at the University.” I begin to tell him my story. “I spend a lot of time in the research library. I have a favourite spot there which is at the end of one of the long tables facing the tall windows in the reading room. Usually people don’t sit on the opposite side because, when the weather’s bad, a cold draft comes down off the glass.”
I look up at him from my hands which are doing battle in my lap and he nods his understanding. A cloud drifts across the sun and I continue.
“It was early last spring when I was spending a lot of time there. Some days I would be reading and taking notes for 6 or 7 hours before I exhausted myself. My professor was anxious for me to produce the next chapter of my thesis.”
“On one day in particular, I had been there for several hours. A spring rain had blown in and, peripherally, I heard the rain begin to spatter on the panes of the window. Your eyes grow accustomed to seeing the book just a foot and a half in front of you. I tore my eyes up from the book I was reading to look at the window. As I said before, my eyes were tired so, as I looked up, I had to concentrate to focus on the window ten feet away. That’s when it happened.”
I stop again with that familiar, bottomless feeling in my gut. The Doctor looks up, cocking his head slightly to the side. Outside, a storm seems to be gathering and I can hear thunder in the distance out over the lake.
“Tell me what happened”, he says and flips the page over to a new one in his pad.
“That’s when I saw, for just the time it takes for recognition to pass through the mind, a man sitting on the opposite side of the table shouting at me. I just about fell out of my skin.”
“There was a man…” echoes the Doctor.
“Yes, absolutely”, I answer, emphatically. “As clear as you are to me – and then gone. He was a large man, dressed in a black suit with a rose on the lapel. He was sitting very erect in the chair across from me with his palms flat on the table. His face was livid because he was clearly exerting himself by shouting. I could see his mouth moving but heard nothing. And then he was gone.”
“And where do you think he went?” responds the Doctor.
“Oh, he didn’t go anywhere”, I answer. “My eyes adjusted to the distance and focused on the window. He’s still there.”
“Why do you think that?” asks the Doctor.
“I’ve seen him many times since”, I reply. “That was my mistake: The Great Undoing of Gabe!” I add and laugh, probably sounding a little hysterical. “I started going back and intentionally unfocussing my eyes. I’d stare at a book for some time and then look up. I’d see him.
“So you saw him again. What happened next?” asked the Doctor.
“I saw the others.”
“The others?” answers the Doctor. He looks at me awkwardly.
“Yes, the bloody others”, I answer him. “The others. Thousands or millions or more of them. Everywhere!”
“What do you mean?” asks the Doctor.
“All of them. I mean, all of us. All of the dead are here. They are everywhere. The more recent of them can be clearly seen. The longer they are dead, the more they become misty and indistinct. They just drift out of existence. That’s what awaits you and I, Doctor. Just years of waiting and then slipping out of existence.”
I begin to sob. No Heaven. No Hell. No escape. No future. Years, how many I do not know, of ineffectual shouting and trying to make yourself heard. And then nothing. It’s like living another life or lives but being unable to do anything. I can’t conceive of the torture. I can’t stand it. My shoulders heave and I tremble in my chair as the tears run down my face. Outside the storm arrives in a great clap of thunder and the first large drops of rain begin to splash against the window. The Doctor sits patiently while my fit of sorrow peaks and then begins to wane. Then he speaks.
“Gabe, tell me more about the man in the library. What was he shouting?”
I wipe my eyes and dry my nose. “I never figured it out,” I answer, “I think he’d lost his mind. He may have been shouting rubbish. But one of them did notice me and then she almost drove me off the deep end by standing in front of me and repeating herself. She came out of a crowd at me one day and followed me.”
I am sobbing again. I feel like screaming. The Doctor looks over his glasses at me again and creases appear at the side of his mouth. The storm intensifies and the rain now comes in gusts, rattling the panes of the window.
“I couldn’t hear her”, I say as the tension builds inside me. “But the words were simple enough. Even I could recognise them.”
“And what where they?” the Doctor answers and his hand stops over the pad of note paper.
“She said, ‘Make it stop, please!’” I look down at my hands and see that they are wrenched into one another, knotted and painfully cramped.
The Doctor is kind to me. He says I should take this medication to help me sleep and advises me to take one straight away so the effects start to build. His voice is calm and soothing. He makes an appointment for the following day to continue the discussion but I don’t know what else there is to tell him. He calls a cab for me and walks me to it, all the while talking in that low, calm voice. I head back to my apartment feeling sleepy but more relaxed.
Afterward, the Doctor sits for some time in his chair, reading and re-reading his notes. Outside, the storm blusters against the window. After a while, the Doctor looks up from his notes to stare fixedly at the drops of rain scattering themselves across the window.